The Sixers Struggles Will Only Be Hidden For So Long
Last night, the Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Toronto Raptors up north of the border in a 119-109 game. It was Philly’s 4th loss in their first 5 games, an abysmal start for a team that has, and still certainly has, championship aspirations. Oh, were you not fully aware of this slow start for the Sixers? Don’t worry; you’re not the only one. The Philadelphia sports landscape is glowing right now with the Phillies in the World Series, the Eagles still undefeated, the Union in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Flyers off to a strong 4-2 start. There are so many bright storylines, it’s easy to look past the one blip on the radar that is the Sixers’ 1-4 start. Well, it’s at least easy for now. The World Series only lasts so long, as does the MLS playoffs, the adrenaline of an early Flyers start, and even the coverage of an undefeated Eagles team. Eventually, the focus will shift to the Sixers, and they better figure out these issues before that happens. So, what are the issues currently facing the Sixers, and how easy are they to fix? Well, let’s start with the perimeter defense. For all of his faults, Ben Simmons was an elite perimeter defender, and since he was discarded in favor of James Harden, that facet of the Sixers game has noticeably struggled. So far this season, they’re allowing 13.8 opponent 3 pointers a game, good for the 5th most in the NBA. Now Denver, Minnesota, and Chicago are 3 of the 4 teams giving up more 3s than them, and they’re all expected playoff teams, so the Sixers aren’t alone, but it’s not exactly a good group to be in. It can be remedied, though, by the Sixers scoring strongly on their own. The issue is that they’re not doing that either. So far this year, Joel Embiid and company are averaging 107.8 ppg, the 5th least in the NBA. Bad defense + bad offense = bad basketball. I’m not a big math guy, but that equation is even simple enough for me. Looking at the talent the Sixers have, it’s undeniable that they should be better than this. Joel Embiid and James Harden are both in the top 20 in the NBA in ppg so far this year. Embiid is tied for 12th in rebounds per, James Harden is 4th in assists per. The problem is not the individual talent, the problem is the bonding of the team as a whole. The good news is that the Sixers are only 5 games in, and they have a lot of new pieces to work into the equation. This could simply be growing pains of a team that isn’t used to playing with each other. The longer it goes, though, the more the fan base will question Head Coach Doc Rivers and his ability to get the most out of this team. Doc’s seat has already been warmed, but if this continues when the Sixers are in the spotlight, it could certainly get hot.